Automobiles are self-propelled passenger vehicles that use four or more tires for transportation on road surfaces and are powered by internal combustion engines. The branches of engineering that deal with the design and manufacture of automobiles are known as automotive engineering.

Few inventions in modern times have had as much impact on society as the automobile. It is both a symbol of the promise of modern life and of its limitations. Entire societies have been restructured around the power of rapid, long-distance movement conferred by cars and around the flexible distribution of goods made possible by trucks. But automobiles also encourage sprawl (straggling, low-density urban development), degrade landscapes, pollute the air, and contribute to traffic congestion.

The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile go back several hundred years. Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented the internal combustion engine fueled by gunpowder in the late 1600s; it was only in the 1900s, however, that gas-powered motor cars won out over steam and battery electric vehicles. Until the 1920s, most of the world’s cars were too expensive for middle-class families. The production methods pioneered by Henry Ford reduced the price of the Model T until cars were affordable for most Americans.

Today, the industry offers a range of cars for every taste and budget. Smaller, fuel-efficient sedans offer great value and are a pleasure to drive. Larger SUVs offer practical cargo room and three-row seating. For an efficient and fun-to-drive three-row family hauler, we recommend the Mazda CX-9. For a premium feel, consider the Lincoln Navigator or GMC Yukon.

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